Bali Hai – Bali Nay – perhaps more Nay than Hai, for three mature couples.
The transport to the airport was booked for 6.00 am on a Tuesday, so my wife and I were up and about just after 4.00 am for the start of a very long day.
Our MH flight was an AB300 – 300 series and I had booked us all in the two seater area on the starboard side. The configuration was 2 x 4 x 2, plus the flight was only half full, so we had plenty of room. I was concerned that the hour transit time in Kuala Lumper, so as to catch the flight to Bali, would not be enough time for the bags to be removed from our Sydney flight and re-stowed on the Bali flight. I did ask when I made the booking if the short transit time was enough time for the baggage process, and was told that all would be completed within the allocated time. I should have had more faith; all went as planned.
I had read about the crush at Bali airport, to obtain a visa on arrival, and then to queue for immigration. My fears were unfounded – we were through VoA and immigration within a few minutes, and the longest delay was due to our bags being x-rayed before we were allowed to leave the arrival hall. Overall a very pleasant and stress free experience.
Our drivers were waiting for us just outside the arrival hall. I had booked the Kenanga Boutique hotel’s transport on the basis that it would be efficient and on time – it was. I expected a single larger vehicle to accommodate all of our bags and the group; instead we had two five-seater vehicles with plenty of room for our luggage. We split three and three, so we had a comfortable ride to the hotel, which took 65 minutes. Unfortunately the trip was in the dark so we didn’t see much of the countryside.
Checking-in was fast, during which time we were offered fruit drinks and cold towels.
Our first floor bedroom was large, as was the bathroom, which had a rainwater showerhead with plenty of pressure. The abundance of space allowed us to fully unpack and sort ourselves out. We had a large balcony over looking rice fields. The balcony was large enough to accommodate all six of our group for an evening chat.
In addition the lock on our room door (right picture) we also had a lock on the outer door of our balcony (left picture).
Breakfast was al la carte with various choices of Asian or Western meals. The staff members were very friendly and happy to answer our questions.
At the end of the meal the Manager of the hotel introduced himself and asked us how our rooms were for comfort, and if we slept well. It was a pleasure to complement him on his hotel, because few managers bother to ask guests for their opinion.
Later in the day a French couple arrived who turned out to be the husband and wife owners of the hotel. The following morning Patricia (one of the owners) asked us for our opinion of the hotel, and whether we had any suggestions to add to the already high service. We were happy to chat with her about her hotel, and the relaxing ambience that her and her husband had created.
The appeal of the hotel, with only fifteen bedrooms, was pure relaxation. The hotel owned rice fields behind the hotel and we would wake in the morning to the distant sound of ‘bird scarers’, as these ‘scarers’ chased very small birds from the rice fields. The rice was close to being harvested. The people who scared the birds had plastic bags tied to sticks and as they flicked the stick the bag would give off the sound of a crack, which was enough to scare the birds, but not the peacefulness of the day.
View from our balcony
The evening meal, always cooked to order; nothing was held ‘just in case’. The food was a mix of French and Bali influences. We did eat out one evening, at a restaurant recommended by the hotel, but we all considered that the hotel food was better.
Wednesday our first day in Ubud, and we took the complimentary minibus to the town centre, which was about a ten-minute drive from the hotel.
We found Ubud to be a very nice friendly place. Depending on ones interest Ubud had places of historical and cultural interest, a large market, shops galore and cafes & small bars where one could watch the world go bye, while enjoying a quiet drink.
Outdoor and indoor market
International shops are also represented.
The heat and humidity would drain us, but an hour so in a small café or restaurant for cold drink had us back to normal. The three males are not ‘shoppers’, so we were happy to sit quiet in a cafe and wait for our wives. By 2.30 to 3.00 pm even our wives had enough of the shops so it was back to the hotel for a quiet swim and to study how fast the rice plant grows.
Thursday, our second full day, and this time we are off to see temples, terraced rice fields and a volcano. Our minibus, with driver, left at 9.30 am; we’d hired him for a five hour contract price. We were happy to see very famous temples, but we were not happy to check every temple available, because we had seen so many across Asia during other holidays.
Our first stop was at the rice terraces. The greenness of the landscape was breathtaking. I am afraid that my photographic efforts do not do the terraces justice.
The rice terraces can be seen from the main road of Tegalalang village. It is unfortunate that a bar, come hotel (I think), painted in shocking pink, disrupts the magnificence of nature.
Our first temple was a ‘rock’ temple or Gunung Kwai, which was about a thousand years old and is still in use, had been built in to the side of a rock cliff. To get down the cliff we would be a required to use a steep staircase with 315 steps to the bottom. Obviously we realised that we would have to climb back up these 315 steps to board our minibus. It was hot going down and hotter climbing back up. I am sure I lost all the beer from the previous evening meal!
On leaving the temple and climbing back to the top I thought I’d have a fresh coconut instead of a soft drink. The liquid in the nut would put some of the lost liquid back in to my body, with out the sugar of commercial drinks. I asked for two – one for my wife & one for me. I was told the price was 10,000 Rp ($1) – I didn’t want to argue, as the price fitted my needs, so I handed over two 10,000 Rp notes (pink in colour). Only later did I realise that I’d given over two 100,000 Rp notes, worth $20, so we had the most expensive coconut drink ever! The 100,000 Rp note is a similar colour to the 10,000 note – my lack of attention to detail, due to heavy sweating and a great thirst didn’t help. I must admit that I was disappointed with the honesty of the stallholder (a middle aged lady) for not pointing out my error. Overall I found that most people we met in Bali were honest and gave back cash if we’d handed over too much. The large amount of notes required to buy anything can be confusing. $100 Australian dollars in Rp made us millionaires (i.e Rp 1,030,000). I didn’t realise the error until we well away from the rock temple area. The lopping off of the head of the coconut, and using a straw to suck out the liquid did quench my thirst – but the overall experience left a bad taste.
From the Rock temple we moved on to the water temple, or Istana Tampak Siring. The spring inside the temple is believed to have magical healing powers, Pura Tirta Empul or The Temple of Holy Water.
I wondered what the local believers felt when their holy ponds had quite a few westerners bathing in the water.
The spring is constant – the disturbed water is the spring
It was an interesting visit as much as it was to watch the westerners, as to read about the temple.
To leave the temple courtyard we had to follow the exit signs, which took us through a larger area of stalls selling everything from flip flops to hotdogs. It was labyrinth of stalls, up one pathway only to circle back down another, to a point not quite to where we started, and then to zig zag back again until we eventually found the real exit and our minibus. I’m glad I’ve seen this temple, but wasn’t happy about getting out of it via shouting stall holders.
The last part of the trip was to a volcano – Mt Batur.
The picture was taken from our table at a small restaurant overlooking the area. I have been told that if you walk up one side you can fry an egg in the steam and heat of the volcano at a certain point. We didn’t try the walk.
On the way to the volcano we were stopped by the police – I noticed only transport containing foreigners were stopped. The driver left the bus and disappeared in to an area that contained policemen and their vehicles. He came back a short time later and asked if we could help pay 100,000 Rp fine because he had left his daily licence at home. We paid the money, but we never did understand the concept of a daily licence. Our driver paid the money over to the police and received a receipt.On returning to the hotel the driver presented the receipt to the receptionist, who went in to the back office and returned moments later with the 100,000 Rp ($10) – we were reimbursed for our outlay. My gut feeling is that it was a ‘tax’ (there are other names for it), and it is part of doing business with foreigners. During our ten-minute delay I never saw a local get stopped, whether on a motorbike, in a truck or a car, only those vehicles with tourists, as passengers were stopped.Regardless of the ‘taxes’ involved, we loved Ubud for its quietness and overall slowness of life.
During our last day we encountered the preparation for a religious festival – we were not sure what festival, but we stayed and watched the proceedings. A group had gathered in a park area and were waiting for their spiritual leader (Braham??). Various people had cages and we could see that they contained birds. We thought perhaps they would be for eating or perhaps a sacrifice. We were not interested in staying to see any birds sacrificed, but we waited for the spiritual leader. When he arrived the festivities started, which began with a cockfight – hence the birds in the cages. Apparently in Indonesia cock fighting is illegal, but in Bali it is still legal for religious ceremonies, and cocks are bred as a sacrifice for good crops during planting time. Once the cockfight started we moved on to a small bar, well away from the park, and waited for our wives to finish shopping; by which time the cock fighting was over and we could see other celebrations taking place in the distance.
I’d return to the Kenanga Hotel at the drop of a hat. Our five-night stay came to an end all too quickly before we were off to Legion on the coast.
Our coastal experience would be five nights at the Pullman Hotel, which is part of the Accor Group. The Bali Pullman would make this our fifth Pullman hotel after Bangkok (three stays and our favourite), Kuching (two stays) our next favourite, Berlin Pullman, (one stay, and our third choice), followed by Putrajya (one stay of one night, our least favourite). Overall the Pullman hotels have managed to transfer the Pullman attitude to each hotel without devaluing the local ambience, whether it is Germany or Thailand.
Reception area of the Pullman, Bali
View from our balcony
Garden and pool area.
I had the feeling that the Bali Pullman has been created to satisfy a certain clientele from various Western countries. We found little things missing, such as an empty bar fridge, limited tea & coffee facilities and the lack of more than one drinking glass, which took more than three calls to have ‘fixed’. I was not the only one of our group that had this ‘glass less’ problem. Another couple had to get the manager of the hotel involved before they could obtain a second drinking glass. Is this a management problem due to the lack of training, or a definite hotel policy after having experienced the antics of previous guests? I may be wrong, but are they trying to avoid problems due to previous experiences.
On the positive side all of the staff were friendly, and always greeted us, even if they didn’t know our name. The position of the hotel over looking the ocean could not have been bettered. I did enjoy sitting on the room’s small balcony in the evenings, with a cold drink, to watch the sun set and listen to the waves a short distance from the hotel.
I could not fault the service that we received from the hotel nurse and doctor. My wife fell in the bathroom and hit her head on the side of the bath. All appeared fine so we carried on with the holiday until two days later when we were out she felt sick and had a sever headache. We returned to the hotel and I called reception and asked for a doctor to attend to my wife. Within a few minutes a nurse arrived and took her temperature, blood pressure and checked her eyes. Nothing seemed out of order for due to the fall (which was bothering me), but she gave us the option of having the doctor call. I agreed and few minutes later the nurse returned with a doctor and a large suitcase size case on wheels. When opened I could see that it had been compartmentalised for various medical items from stethoscope to hypodermics and other pieces of medical equipment that I didn’t recognise. The doctor went through the same procedure as the nurse, and then did a physical examination of my wife’s stomach area to test for sensitivity. She jumped when he found the right spot.
His conclusion was that the fall had not created the sickness and headaches, but that it was sever gastroenteritis. He then gave my wife two different injections, one to stop the sickness feeling and the other to clear the gastro problem. I asked how long it would be before the drugs took affect and was told ‘about twenty minutes!’ He was right on the button. He waited around for half an hour or more and after twenty minutes my wife’s sickness went away and her headache stopped. She was told to stay away from spicy foods for 24 hours and to eat lightly. From being particularly anxious, the rapid recovery of my wife was a time to celebrate! At least I could celebrate, but my wife was not allowed alcohol or spicy foods for a day or two.
During our time at the Pullman we visited Kuta, Seminyak, Legian (of course, because it was our local area) and Nusa Dua. Overall we found that this coastal strip could have been anywhere in Australia. The Australian accents of other tourists dominated ones ears. Fortunately the prices in the restaurants, bars and hotels were not those of Australia, so I suppose the lower prices compensated for the Asian ‘Gold Coast’ feel.
We did visit the memorial site of the 2002 bombing where 202 people were killed, including 88 Australians. Seeing the memorial brought it all back and made one think of the inhumanity of man.
Overall I think we were disappointed with the coastal strip of Bali, but we loved the Ubud area.
On JI Melasti, (Legian) the first money changer on the right, if you are walking from the Pullman Hotel, offers high rates –BUT don’t use him as he skimmed three of us between 100,000 and 200,000 Rp each. Three of us changed cash and went for lunch. At the end of lunch my friend pulled out his cash to pay his share, and found that he was short, I and the other friend did the same, only to realise that we had all been skimmed. Our ages range from 67 to 74 so we should have known better, but on confronting the individual moneychanger he immediately asked how much we were short. He looked frightened as if he thought we would go to the police (or perhaps knock him about a bit). We regained our missing cash without any problem, and thankfully it was at the start of our Legian holiday, and we had been ‘educated’. If the average rate is 10300 to the Australian dollar and someone offers 10995 be very careful of the higher rate.
The MH B777/200 flight from Bali to KL was uneventful. We took this flight not long after the MH 730 (B777) went missing, on its way to China. The passenger load was about 70 to 80% and on take-off the silence of most passengers was ‘deafening’. Usually on take off one hears chattering or coughing, but this time there was dead silence. I think the missing MH flight had affected everyone, even though they might not have realised.
The cabin crew were very good and continually offered us drinks, perhaps to calm our nerves.
On arrival in KL we were through immigration and customs quite quickly. The transport to the hotel in Melaka had been arranged by the hotel, so when I couldn’t find our driver I was not a happy chappy. A quick phone call to the hotel and the driver suddenly appeared. He’d been standing a short distance away from where all of the hotel drivers normally stand. The trip to Melaka last time had taken us about 90 minutes, but this time it took us two hours. On reaching the State border of Melaka I started to look for familiar buildings, but we had diverted away from the previous routes and became stuck in various traffic jams. On reaching the hotel we were warmly greeted by reception and offered cold towels and drinks. I’d booked the same rooms that we’d had previously and it was like arriving ‘home’.
Early the next morning the sound of the call to prayer woke us at 6.00 am. It was Saturday so I am not sure why the call was so loud. The calls to prayer never bothered us for the remainder of our time in Melaka, perhaps we were overly tired after the flight and two hour drive the previous day.
The Casa del Rio is a beautiful hotel, and the rooms are all large with huge bathrooms and great showers. All rooms are non-smoking, but smokers can use the balcony, which has a table and chairs, plus drying bars on the sidewalls for wet clothes etc. Our rooms overlooked the logo area with the bright blue pool and picturesque fountain with vine type flowers cascading down from each balcony.
Our room was on the third floor above the fountain.
View from our balcony
Our room – door leads to the balcony.
The holiday was created as a quite and slow type of holiday rather than rush, rush to see everything. We’d seen most, if not all of the various sights during previous visits, so it was a little shopping for souvenirs followed by a light lunch before a rooftop swim in the horizon pool.
Four nights seemed the right time when planning the holiday, but with hindsight I should have dropped a night in Legion, for an additional night in Melaka.
Melaka has been cleaned somewhat, and is now a pleasure to walk around. The local government have small boats, manned by two or three people who are constantly ‘fishing’ rubbish from the river. This cleaning system works well because we saw shoals of fish gathering around storm water outlets and a number of monitors (large lizards about six feet long).
The bits hanging down are lights for the evening display.
Being a UNESCO city has helped save many of the older buildings. A viewing tower has been added as a tourist attraction; where the viewing pod takes about seven minutes to get you to the top, while turning slowly to offer a birds eye view of the city and the Straits of Melaka.
Aerial view of our hotel with the swimming pool on the roof. The building on the left contain private apartments, which are part of the hotel complex, but are not for rent.
Since our last visit in 2012, new shopping experiences have been created for the ladies. Large air-conditioned shopping malls containing international brands, mixed with smaller market type stalls, keep most ladies interest for hours. Even though our holiday was planned as a ‘slow’ holiday we still did a river cruise, well worth the $5.00
plus of course Saturday night on Jonkers Street with a little free ‘ott’ trishaw with booming music as you are shown the sights.
Pictures shown below were taken from our Happy Hour table.
At the end of our time in Melaka we had a choice of transport to Penang. It would require a two hour drive to KLIA, followed by check-in, two hours before take off, followed by an hours flight and then another taxi / mini van from Penang airport to the Eastern and Oriental Hotel. I decided that a door-to-door service would be better, and perhaps cheaper. The Casa del Rio arranged a mini-bus for us and on our final morning we started for the five to six hour drive to Penang. The drive went well and we were at the next hotel, the Eastern and Oriental, around 3.00 pm, and at a cheaper price than the mix of taxis, flights and more taxis. The total time taken was six hours and far less stressful.
The E & O has always been our favourite hotel, so on this trip we wanted to sample the new annex called Victory Annex.
Victory Annex and the original hotel The Heritage
Reception area of the Victory Annex
On arrival we where met with the same high standard that we had been used to in the traditional hotel now called The Heritage. The view from our room was magnificent. It allowed me to watch the various cargo and passenger ships arriving and departing through the northern passage. The pictures below show the view from our balcony, both day and night.
Our room had a small balcony with a table and two chairs that allowed total privacy. The only people who would be able to see you on this balcony would be a person with powerful binoculars on one of the sea going vessels. The ambiance of our Victory Annex room maintained the heritage theme of The Heritage area. Victory Annex guests have a choice of two swimming pools – the original, on the ground floor of The Heritage in front of the Farquhar Bar over looking the Melaka Straits or on the sixth floor of the Victory Annex, again overlooking the Melaka Straits. I have used both pools and cannot say which I prefer.
Horizon pool on the sixth floor.
Both are very attractive and just the right depth for exercise swimming or just relaxing and floating while the world slowly turns towards the complimentary evening cocktail hour offered by the Victory Annex.
The Planters Lounge being set up for complimentary cocktails. Planters Lounge balcony
The high level of service offered by the E & O is based on observation, and the memory of each individual staff member for the needs of their guests.
My wife is a coeliac and cannot eat ‘normal’ bread. She asked one of the staff if the hotel had any gluten free bread. He replied that they did, but it would take about twenty minutes. My wife asked if the delay was because they had to defrost the bread. ‘Oh no Madam’ was the reply, ‘we make it fresh!’
Not wishing to wait the twenty minutes (we had plans for the morning), my wife asked if it would be available for the following morning. ‘Certainly, Madam, it will be arranged.’
The following day my wife asked for the bread and it was brought quickly. The day after, (our third breakfast), as we took our seats, the staff member, from the first breakfast, placed a plate of gluten free bread in front of my wife, and wished her a happy day of sight seeing. Attention to detail is the hallmark of this hotel.
For breakfast one can sit in an air-conditioned buffet area or outside. We chose to sit outside, because it was cool and I love the ever-changing view of passing ships, and the rising sun that had not yet started to heat up the day.
Breakfast area outside Sunrise
We ate out a couple of nights – one meal was a compete disaster –
We were a group of six (three couples) and we had visited the Bali Hai sea food restaurant on Gurney Parade a number of time since 2005. What a mistake this year – we ordered five fish dishes and I ordered a meat dish (ostrich). One of the fish dishes was a whole fish deep fired, but didn’t have any meat. I’d never seen a fish skeleton so nicely presented . The fried rice was nice, as I helped myself from my wife’s share, while I waited for my meal. I waited and I waited and tried to attract a staff member’s attention. As the others of my group were finishing I managed to attract the attention of the waitress who had handled our order, and told her to cancel mine. Miraculously my order was about to be served (which I didn’t believe for a minute). I insisted that it be cancelled, because everybody else had finished their meal and we all wished to leave. In particular, our friend with the skeleton fish wanted to leave, because she was still hungry and wanted to return to the hotel for something to eat. I doubt that we will visit this restaurant again.
This restaurant is famous for its fresh fish – see the tanks – but overall their service has fallen. I have visited this restaurant regularly over the years, and have noticed that as they became more and more famous, their overall service has fallen away, which is a shame.
From the E & O we moved on, again by road, to Kuala Lumpur for our last three nights before flying home.Last time we were in KL we stayed at the Concorde Hotel, and we were upgraded to a suite, so of course we booked the same hotel again. Unfortunately this time we were not upgraded. Can’t knock the hotel for that, because we only paid for a ‘normal’ room.The drive from Penang to KL took about four hours, but finding our way through the city to our hotel took another hour or so. Our driver was used to taking people to the international airport (KLIA), but not to the city and kept stopping to ask directions. We did suggest that he find a taxi and follow it to our destination, but this fell on deaf ears. In the end we recognised where we were and we were able to direct the driver to the Concorde Hotel. I am not sure how long it took the driver to return home to Penang, or if he is still driving around looking for the freeway to the airport. We had two drivers; the second being a back-up in case the main driver felt tired. Unfortunately the back-up diver’s knowledge of KL was worse than the main driver, but it all worked out well in the end.
Our three nights at the Concorde were mainly to finalise a little shopping and have an early start from the city to catch the 9.00 am Sydney plane on our departure day. The hotel is not as striking as the Casa de Rio in Melaka, or the E & O in Penang, but the location was good, the service was good and above all, the price was right.
View from our room. Hotel’s pool
The evening of our arrival we decided to visit a restaurant in Pateling Street, which is in China Town market area.
We’d visited this restaurant in 2005, where we’d seen a rat drinking from the water in which fresh fish were swimming. After seeing the rat we christened the restaurant Ratatouille – the children’s film of the same name didn’t come out until 2007. On pointing out the rat to the owner we were entertained by a short Chinese gentleman, screaming in his local dialect and brandishing a large broom, chasing a rat around the open-air restaurant. Seeing rats in the market area was not unusual, and due to the large amount of food in and around the market, keeping the rat population in check was a major problem for the authorities.
We have only ever seen the one rat, in or near, this restaurant and have never had any problems with the food, which we found to be very tasty and inexpensive. Every meal is cooked to order – nothing is left simmering to attract unwelcome ‘guests’. The portions are generous, so if you do visit only order the small size unless you are very hungry. This year (2014) we eventually found out the correct name of the restaurant.
The following evening we decided to revisit a Vietnamese restaurant called Sao Nam, that we had visited on out last trip. We remembered that the food was very good, the place was clean and the wine ‘inexpensive’ for Malaysia. We rang and booked a table for six.
The food and wine this year was just a good as we remembered from our last visit.
On our last day in KL, during a break in shopping, we spoke about where we were going to eat in the evening – as you can gather our holidays revolve around food and comfortable hotels – a few suggestions were made until one of the group commented that they would like to return to the Sao Nam. A vote was taken and it was a hundred percent agreement for the Sao Nam. The proprietor was surprised, but very pleased to see us again so soon.
The chef of the Sao Nam has won many awards and was invited by the Western Australian Trade Commission to visit Perth and to show off his skills. While in Perth he was guest chef at a number of restaurants.
On our final day a minibus had been booked for 6.30 am to take us to Sentral railway station to catch the Ekspres train to the airport (a high speed train that takes 28 minutes). The benefit of using the Ekspres system, even though it is more expensive than a dedicated vehicle to the airport, is due to timing. The departure time to Sydney was 9.00 am, so we had to check-in by 7.00 am. This would require leaving the hotel around 5.30 to 6.00 am for the hour ride to the airport. Alternately we could leave the hotel at 6.30 am for the twenty minute ride to Sentral and check-in for our flight at the railway station, as long as we had a ticket to use the Ekspres service to the airport. This we did, and we were on the 7.15 am train to the airport; checked luggage free.
On arrival at the airport we walked to emigration and passed through without a problem, because our boarding passes had been issued at Sentral station. The airport aero-train carried us from the main terminal to the satellite terminal for our aircraft. We arrived in plenty of time for security at the departure gate, without the feeling of being rushed that we would have had, if we’d been driven to the airport.
The Concorde hotel starts their breakfast serving at 6.00 am, but one can gain access to the restaurant around 5.45 am, as long as you do not wish a hot meal. Cereal and fruit, with coffee was all that we wanted. This allowed us to complete a sedate checkout, rather than a mad rush to get to the airport.
The MH flight was uneventful, and a lot better than the return MH flight of last year.
Our transport was waiting at Sydney airport to take us home – another holiday over.